Posts Tagged ‘app’

Certainly we are living in interesting times. My first “serious” job was as Administrator of the Computing Centre at the Complutense University of Madrid. The centre was equipped with an IBM 360 which had a main memory smaller than my actual smart phone. So here we are, equipped with a powerful hand held instrument that, most of us, use for calling/texting friends and acquaintances, listening to music or watching TV shows. What a waste!

So, people around the world are trying to introduce us to the wonders of apps: smart little pieces of programming that are intended to make life easier for us. From advising us when the next bus is coming to how to navigate those streets we are not familiar with.

But there is another use that is being explored and promoted but still is not part of our lives. I am talking about those apps that are intended to change our lives. According to a recent report (mHealth App Economics 2017 http://www.research2guidance.com) there are some 350.000 health apps on the market. I have not found a similar study for other sectors, for example managing disasters, but a Google search for it gives 262 results, so it is not a fringe issue either.

Anyhow, the fact is that be it 350.000 or 262, the spread of those apps is meaningless. Do you know anybody in your circle using one app for a practical use in health or in security? I do not and I am closely involved with the socio-health sector, and have some connection with security issues.

The only possible conclusion is that the business model on which those apps rely are faulty. Most of them are built thinking of the future, a user that does not exist, either because the app is too complicated or because it is too simple. We are simply forgetting about user-centered co-design. We design things for the user but not with the user. Let´s try in 2018 to change our design mainframe and put the user in the centre of our efforts. That will make our times even more interesting.


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Millions of people use smartphones with a processing capacity that not many years ago was reserved for big mainframes. Not as many millions, but certainly a good number, design apps intended for helping people’s lives; and many of them are e-health related. So, how can the e-health app designer make a mark on those millions of people and differentiate his or her product from the competition?

The designer needs to generate not only the first click, but needs to make that click a habit for the user. Put this way, clearly we have two problems to solve.

Problem one is to induce a lot of people to make that first click that will make our app known to the user. How does a theme become a buzz in the www? We need to create some kind of social movement that makes our app something people talk about, something “cool people” have to know about. You need somebody who can turn an idea into a buzz.

Problem two is to make that first click a habit. A habit is something that becomes part of a person’s life. How do you promote habits into the population? Well, the tobacco industry knows a lot about it and I am not talking about drug addictions, I am talking about the glamour that is still associated with smoking: the Habano cigar in hand transmits something very appealing to a lot of people. We have to be bold in our need to change people’s behavior. So when designing our app we have to imbed into it the addiction factor. Call it serious games or gamification, but to be successful you will need expertise in this area to help you.

Your app efficacy is beyond any doubt; you are the best app designer because you have identified a problem and knew how to solve it. But if you are lacking in social abilities to make a dent in the www, and behavioral change is a concept alien to you, well, I’m sorry to tell you that you will not succeed in the market place.

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